James Kalb

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The Political Utility of Tragedy
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The Political Utility of Tragedy

The morning of Sept. 11, 2001 was unusually beautiful in Brooklyn, fresh and cloudless after the previous day’s thunderstorms, with temperatures in the mid-60s. It was Primary Day, and around a quarter to nine my wife had set out for our polling place at a local school to vote.   Just short of arriving, she...

What Civil Rights Hath Wrought
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What Civil Rights Hath Wrought

The Age of Entitlement: America Since the Sixties; by Christopher Caldwell; New York: Simon & Schuster; 352 pp., $28.00   The social and legal order that emerged from the civil rights movement of the 1960s now dominates public life. While Christopher Caldwell seems to accept in his new book the view of that movement as at least initially a...

Remembering Robert Nisbet
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Remembering Robert Nisbet

It is hard to imagine anyone today having a career like Robert Nisbet’s: professor at Berkeley, Arizona, and Columbia; dean and vice-chancellor at the University of California, Riverside; author of widely used sociology textbooks; and co-founder, along with his friend Russell Kirk and a few others, of postwar intellectual American conservatism. Nisbet greatly admired Edmund...

Secular Nationalism Is Not Enough
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Secular Nationalism Is Not Enough

The Turkic peoples began as steppe nomads, then became soldiers and eventually farmers and city-dwellers.  As they made these transitions they came to dominate ancient centers along the Silk Road.  So they ended up at crossroads and thoroughfares, places where Christian, Muslim, and Jew met with those from farther afield. Such places seem romantic, but...

The Esolen Option
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The Esolen Option

If we don’t like the way of life around us, why not live differently?  Why go along with something so inhuman and unrewarding?  So asks Anthony Esolen in his new book. Good criticism calls for a conception of what should be as well as an analysis of what is.  Esolen provides both.  Like any social...

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Blurred Lines

What’s with Pope Francis?  What has been his effect on the Church?  To understand the situation we need to look at secular culture, the state of the Church, and Francis himself. Public culture today is atheistic.  It excludes God, natural law, and higher goods; bases morality on individual preferences; and views reason as a way...

Beyond Populism
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Beyond Populism

Donald Trump’s political success dramatizes the nature of today’s politics.  On  one side we have denationalized ruling elites with absolute faith in their own outlook and very little concern for Americans as Americans.  On the other we have an increasingly incoherent and corrupted populace that nonetheless retains for the most part the basic political virtue...

Mechanical Nihilism
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Mechanical Nihilism

This is a book about life in a society from which higher goods have been expelled, leaving no place for love, wonder, or beauty.  The “compulsion” of the title is that which guides people in such a setting.  In default of anything better, people fall under the dominion of itches, obsessions, and impositions, and mistake...

The Practice of Politics
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The Practice of Politics

This is a history of liberalism as it appears to an intelligent, well-informed, and thoroughly convinced English liberal who worked for many years as an editor and correspondent for The Economist.  It is useful as a sympathetic exploration of the stages through which the political outlook that rules us today has advanced. The book is...

A Necessary Book
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A Necessary Book

We have been enduring the cultural revolution of liberal modernity.  It is hard to say exactly when that revolution began, but it took a great step forward in the 60’s, when social and religious tradition lost its last shreds of public authority, and another after the collapse of communism freed it to go wherever it...

A Highly Acceptable Man
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A Highly Acceptable Man

Conscience and its Enemies is a collection of Robert George’s recent writings for a general audience.  In addition to the title topic, it includes chapters on the defense of natural marriage, the protection of life from conception to natural death, the nature of moral reasoning, and the need for limited government.  Overall, the pieces in...

Why Garry Wills?
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Why Garry Wills?

Garry Wills identifies himself as a Christian.  He says he accepts the creeds, along with prayer, divine providence, the Gospels, the Eucharist, and the Mystical Body of Christ as the body of all believers.  He thinks it a bad thing that “article by article, parts of the Creed are fading from some churches.”  He also...

A Self-Contained World
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A Self-Contained World

Pascal Bruckner is a French version of the Cold War liberal, updated for the age of jihad.  In general, his views would be at home in blue-state America.  He is pro-E.U. and pro-affirmative action, takes a more positive view of the free market than is common in France, is generally pro-Israel and pro-American, and favors...

Always Something to Say
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Always Something to Say

There are very few neoconservatives, people disagree on who they are, and they have no popular following or definite organizational structure.  Even so, they have deeply affected American public life for 40 years. Their influence has not gone unopposed.  The term neoconservative began as an insult and remains one.  Opponents tie the tendency to foreign...